Stalinism Forever

By Anna Politkovskaya
Saturday, April 1, 2006; Page A17

MOSCOW -- We are using Stalin's methods again, this
time to fight terrorism. I am writing for this
American newspaper on a subject that one can no longer
write about in Russia -- islamskiy terrorizm, or
Islamic terrorism cases. There are hundreds of such
cases going through the courts in our country. Most of
them have been fabricated by the government so that
the special services can demonstrate how "effective"
Russia is in fighting terrorism and so that President
Vladimir Putin has something with which to impress the

Close examination of these cases shows that many
interrogation records have been tampered with and that
the documents containing so-called honest confessions
were obtained through the torture of innocent suspects
who are being punished for the crimes of Chechen
separatist Shamil Basayev.

Here is one example of how it's done. Recently two
young college students from the Chechen capital of
Grozny -- Musa Lomayev and Mikhail Vladovskikh -- were
accused by the police and the prosecutor's office of
all small, previously unsolved acts of terrorism that
had occurred about six months before in one of
Grozny's residential areas. As a result, Vladovskikh
is now severely disabled: Both his legs were broken
under torture; his kneecaps were shattered; his
kidneys badly damaged by beating; his genitalia
mutilated; his eyesight lost; his eardrums torn; and
all of his front teeth sawed off. That is how he
appeared before the court.

To get Lomayev to sign -- and he did sign confessions
for five acts of terrorism -- they inserted electrical
wires in his anus and applied current. He would lose
consciousness, and they would pour water on him, show
him the wires again, turn him around backward -- and
he would sign confessions that he belonged to a gang
with Vladovskikh. This despite the fact that the two
defendants were first introduced to one another by
their prison torturers.

Yet another young man who was pulled into this case is
Muslim Chudalov, a neighbor of the Vladovskikh family
before the war. Within 48 hours of being jailed, he
produced confessions to 15 crimes, after which the
torturers dragged him as a witness to testify at the
Lomayev-Vladovskikh trial. The left side of his face
was burned, his arms and legs were swollen, and he had
bruises and bloodstains all over his body. He could
neither walk nor stand -- security personnel had to
carry him in. Responding to the prosecutor's demand,
his tongue faltering, Chudalov confirmed all of his
testimony against Lomayev and Vladovskikh. And
certainly against himself.

Approximately a month later Chudalov was able to send
a message from jail: "I could not endure all those
tortures. I am scared even now when someone simply
opens my door. . . . I did not participate personally
in any one of those crimes. The investigators would
themselves state the date of a particular crime, then
they would tell me: 'This is what you participated
in,' and beat me up. Then they made me learn the text
of my statement by heart."

This is how we create our "Islamic terrorists" -- but
we are no longer allowed to write openly about it in
Russia. It is forbidden for the press to express
sympathy with those sentenced for "terrorism," even if
a judicial mistake is suspected. During the
perestroika years we fought so persistently for the
right to appeal and the right for clemency, knowing
how many judicial mistakes are made in the country,
and a special state committee on pardons was

Now, under Putin, the committee has been disbanded,
executions have been tacitly restored, and judicial
mistakes are again viewed as permissible and
tolerable. The flow of "Islamic terrorism" cases has
engulfed hundreds of innocent people, while Basayev
continues to walk free. And there is no end in sight.

The plight of those sentenced for "Islamic terrorism"
today is the same as that of the political prisoners
of the Gulag Archipelago. They receive long terms --
18 to 25 years in strict security camps in Siberian
swamps and woods, with virtually all communication
with the outside forbidden. Even the Red Cross is not

Russia continues to be infected by Stalinism. But it
seems to me that the rest of the world has been
infected along with it, a world shrunken and
frightened before the threat of terrorism. I recall
the words of one torture victim at his trial: "What
will become of me? How will I be able to live in this
country if you sentence me to such a long prison term
for a crime that I did not commit, and without any
proof of my guilt?"

He never received an answer to his question. Indeed,
what will become of all the rest of us, who tolerate
this? What has become of us already?

The writer is a special correspondent for the
Moscow-based paper Novaya Gazeta and the recipient of
the 2005 Civil Courage Prize.


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